Monday, May 13, 2013

Teach from a Beginner's Mind

I recently attended a hot yoga class in town during their promotion week.  I enjoyed the session immensely: the class pace was good, the instructor had good cues, she was engaging, and she got off her mat to watch her students.  The room temp was a balmy 105*F (40*C) which oddly was not as hot as some CorePower classes I've taken - a difference in humidity I think.  I had a good session.

However, I don't think the two people brand new to yoga - as in this was their first class - did. 

Because the instructor led a class that was appropriate for her, not her students.  She was a small, lithe, little thing.  Her class, was not.  More than once I wanted to go adjust someone, to offer that person a more comfortable place to work, to relax shoulders, put knees over ankles or straighten legs, to lift hearts.  I inwardly cringed as she put people into a challenging variation on warrior III then transitioned to half-moon without any blocks for the the class.  She came to a spot where it was "Free Arm Balance Time!" then went through a slew of arm balances that only two of us could do (myself and my friend) but didn't offer any explanation of what all those arm balance poses were or places to work.  So what did the rest of the class do at that point?  You guess it, sat back and watched in the mirrors. 

One of my biggest peeves - don't give people a basketful of poses and expect that they know what they are!  Especially in what was basically a demo class!  Pick one and offer different places to work on. 

I'm fairly certain she was predominantly YogaFit trained - there is a class flow that is particular to YogaFit and readily identifiable.  I think this is one of the drawbacks of the YogaFit training system (and yes, I've done the YogaFit training) is this tendency to leap into the "fancy" poses without any breakdown.  Rather like the jump forwards/jump backs - always done, rarely broken down.

Which brings me to my title: Teach from a Beginners Mind.  Or, lead a class appropriate for your students.   I know I've written about this before, but class is NOT the time for YOU to be practicing. Yes, you might be very comfortable in any given pose, but your class probably is not.  LOOK at your class.  SEE what they are doing.  And find a place for them to start the pose.  Even if that means going back to the beginning.

Some suggestions: 
  • If doing a demo class, keep the poses to the basics.  Skip the Warrior III's, Half-Moon's, the Arm Balances. 
  • If you have an influx of beginners (beginning of a new session or season), keep the poses to the basics.  Then ratchet back even more.  Even your regulars will benefit from foundational work.  Your regulars should also know that they can work up if needed. 
  • You might be comfortable in arm balances, but most beginners aren't.  These take time to build up to - take the time to build up the foundation.  Pick one asana and work on it, and when the majority of your class is showing some proficiency, then introduce another. 
  • Don't be doing headstands with a beginning or demo class.  Period.
Much of this will come with teaching experience and with follow-up instructor training.  Currently, my community has a HUGE influx of new instructors and well, the classes in the area reflect that. 

And here is where I fully admit, it is hard for me to turn off my teacher's brain when I take a class.  I know I need to be in a front corner where I can't see the majority of the class.   Unfortunately for this session, I was smack dab in the middle of a long skinny room with a bank of mirrors.  Again, I enjoyed class and it gave me something to blog about.

Teach from a Beginner's Mind. Always.